Justin Wong, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s visual arts department, has fled Hong Kong after being informed that the university’s top brass contacted the Hong Kong police about an article he produced for an academic magazine.
Wong’s article analysed the visual symbols and imagery used in the 2019 anti-extradition protests, such as yellow umbrellas, the pig mascot from popular online discussion forum LIHKG, and masks from the anti-totalitarian graphic novel “V for Vendetta”. The article was intended to be published in an academic magazine produced by Shared Campus, an initiative comprising international higher-education arts institutions including Singapore’s LASALLE College of the Arts and Switzerland’s Zurich University of the Arts. However, the article was eventually flagged as being too “problematic” and Shared Campus attempted to recall from public circulation issues of the magazine containing the article.
The police had previously accused Wong of slandering the Junior Police Call (a youth outreach group run by the force) by drawing a satirical comic strip for local newspaper Ming Pao.
Since the enactment of the NSL, acts of political censorship in Hong Kong’s academia have skyrocketed. Universities have removed tributes to the 1989 Tiananmen square massacre, cancelled events that reference the 2019 protests over security concerns, forced recalls of student publications containing sensitive content, and pressured student unions to disband. In an authoritarian climate where universities are hypervigilant in cracking down on dissent (including the research and analysis of it) and even report their own staff to the police, academics feel severe pressure to self-censor or otherwise leave Hong Kong.
(This article originally appeared as an item in the Jan-Feb 2023 edition of our newsletter.)